USMNT U-18 midfielder trains with Crew First Team
OBETZ, Ohio - Gregg Berhalter's youth movement in Columbus showed its first signs of getting even younger Monday, when the new Crew boss invited Crew Soccer Academy and USMNT youth product Ben Swanson to train with the first team.
The 16-year-old midfielder participated in full 8-v-8 drills in Crew training, and Berhalter says he was impressed with Swanson's play.
“It's exciting to have our academy keep producing guys we can take a look at,” Berhalter told reporters after training Monday. “If you watched today, he did fine, he did good. So it's nice to see.”
Berhalter said that he likes having access to the academy players and being able to bring them in to get time with the first team. He said he expects big things from Swanson.
“We like to keep the connection,” he said. “Obviously [Swanson] is a national team player, and we want to bring him around and expose him to our level of training because we think he has a bright future with us.”
Swanson turns 17 in July, and has played for the USMNT youth at the U-17 and U-18 level, and was most recently called up to the Copa del Atlantico in Spain, where he was one of just eight players born in 1997 on the roster.
Is it possible that Swanson could be contributing for the club as early as 2014?
“If he's good enough to play, why not?” Berhalter said. “We want guys that can play, and if he's good enough, no problem.”
The Crew have signed eight Homegrown players in their history, seven of which are still on the roster. And after adding two more Homegrowns in the offseason, Berhalter has no plans of stopping the flow of talent from the Crew Soccer Academy.
“They have a number of guys we're keeping an eye on,” he said. “He's one of them. Obviously he's probably the most highly-touted, being with the U-18s and doing well there. But the academy is doing a good job of getting guys prepared for our level. So it's nice that they can come out and train and not look out of place.”